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March 12, 2007 – Motivating your staff and the surprising moment it starts

March 12, 2007
Filed under Features

INDIANAPOLIS — Customers today are more challenging than ever before. Whether they’re sticklers on getting the lowest price, constantly wavering about whether that ATV will fit into their budget or finding a bike that is customized perfectly for them, sales staff in the powersports industry are under more pressure to close a sale. As a dealer, keeping your staff motivated is a full-time job, but one that will ultimately decide whether you turn a profit or not.
The tall task of properly motivating a sales staff was the topic of a seminar held by Assurant Solutions’ Steve Everson during the Dealer Expo. Below are some strategies and tips from Everson on how you can achieve the greatest potential from your sales staff.
Leaders Set The Pace
The most important person in any dealership is the staff member who’s considered the leader of the team, and according to Everson, how that person sets the tone the minute they walk through the door in the morning will resonate throughout your staff.
“In your dealership, who’s your leader, and do they tend to set the tone and pace of the day for everyone?” Everson asked. “How many times have you worked with someone, maybe it’s a sales manager or a general manager, who comes into work, plops down at their desk and he starts talking about the date he had last night, or yesterday’s ballgame? But he’ll stop to tell a salesperson, ‘hey, you’re behind this month, you’ve got to start picking up your sales,’ or ‘guys we’re running behind, you need to get to work,’ and then he’ll go right back to talking about his day? Is he setting the tone for your dealership? He is, it’s just a negative one.
“A good leader is someone who walks through that door, and no matter what’s going on in his life, it’s showtime and he’s got to flip the switch. If you’re a young salesperson trying to carve out a living, who are you going to follow, who are you going to run through the wall for? Or would you rather have a salesperson who works off the ‘hope’ system: I hope I get a sale today, I hope someone shows up. A great leader also leads by example. When you have a salesperson come to the desk who can’t close the deal, instead of hammering on the person and berating them at the desk, be the kind of leader who says to them ‘it’s OK, we’ve all been there, do you mind telling me what’s he’s been saying to you, and is it OK if I go over there and talk to him myself?’ And then when you close the sale, which most times you’ll do, instead of having a negative situation, you’ve just raised the level of respect that employee has for you. Now how motivational is that? I’ve seen too many dealerships where the team leader fails to set a positive tone for everyone else. You’ve got to get more involved with your people, and more importantly, lead by example.”
Lay Out A Game Plan
Everson says before a customer even gets to a dealership, the result of the sale will already be determined by whether you have a game plan for how you’re going to work with the customer. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a customer who walks in and doesn’t have their mindset on anything, or someone who walks in and demands a certain price before threatening to leave.
“Customers love options, so you want to give them choices,” Everson said. “You have to understand that there are different types of customers who come in, but they all sort of fit under the same mold. You’ve got the hard-sell customers, the reasonable customers and then somewhere in between. If you have a game plan in place to deal with each one, you’re one step closer to a sale.”
Just as important as your customer game plan, however, is your internal one. Everson stresses that you must ask the question, “Do I have a game plan in place so that when my people come to work, they come to work?
“As far as your staff, if you’re selling 100 units and your goal is to get to 125, how are you going to achieve that?” Everson asked. “Are you just going to sit around and hope for the best? No. What if instead you say, ‘in order to get that extra sale per day, what if I start working with my salespeople on refining their skills?’ I notice that when a salesperson sits down at a table with the buyer they’re losing a lot of customers there, because the customer will say something to the effect of ‘I’ve got to go home to discuss this with my wife.’ And the salesperson gives them a business card and ushers them out the door. Who just quit in that scenario? The salesperson.”
Everson says the best way to approach a situation like that is to have a game plan already in place so your salesperson knows what to do when a customer starts heading for the door.
“Psychology tests have shown the highest peak of a customer’s buying experience is the first moment they sit on the bike, because that’s when they take ownership of it, Everson said. “This is the best time to try things like trial closing, building some value into the bike. So the customer sits on the bike and says that they like how it feels and they love the color. As a salesperson you need to be taking all this in because you’re going to feed it right back to them in a minute. You’re going to say something like ‘boy, the bike sits great doesn’t it?’ What are they going to say? ‘Yes.’ That’s called a yes question. Then you can say, ‘Well let’s put a sale sign on this and step into my office. I just need to know will the bike be in just one name or two?’ What’s the worst thing that can happen in that situation? Typically at this point it comes down to a few things, the first one is me. Have I been a good salesperson and done a good job for you? Usually you’ll get a positive response. The next thing is the bike — you love the bike, right? Well yeah they love the bike, you heard them say it five minutes ago.
“At that point, tell them to follow you to your office so you can write the sale up. I don’t care if they say yes or no, the key is to not dismiss them. If you can get your salespeople to really sharpen that skill of keeping the customer in the game, you’ll be amazed at how motivated they’ll be to see how far they can take the next customer.”
Everson stresses that half the battle in motivating your sales staff is to convince them that the customer really is in the dealership to do business, something they can be confident of when there’s a good game plan in place.
“Let me use the example of a grocery store,” Everson said. “You walk in there, get your stuff, the cashier rings your stuff up and then tells you the total is $98.28. If you want to have fun some time, say to her, ‘Well I don’t make hasty decisions, I’m going to have to think about it and get back to you,’ or, ‘is that the best you can do?’ What did the cashier just do in that situation? She assumed the sale.
“Why can’t we get our people to assume the sale? Customers have a lot better things to do with their time than to just come and hang out at the dealership. They come for the sale. They want to make a sale, but we need to have a plan to make sure that happens.”
Another important aspect to your game plan is to be involved directly with your staff by showing them how to close a sale rather than telling them.
“If you see your sales staff huddled together on the sales floor, go up to them and simulate a customer conversation with them,” Everson said. “Require them to have answers on an index card that they have to repeat back to you. That’s great coaching. As a leader, if you can’t see it then you can’t achieve it, and your sales people can’t either.”
One-On-One Meetings
Finally, Everson stresses if you want to make an impact on your staff’s morale, one-on-one meetings are critical.
“First thing you need to do is make sure you set aside time each day to meet with each member of your team, and let them know it’s not optional and that it will be a daily routine,” Everson said. “Let them know you’re interested in them as a person and not just a salesperson. Focus on what they’re saying and actively listen. Next, you should review the key production areas: MTD data and results; goals, their progress and planned activities for accomplishment; working prospects; appointments scheduled and confirmed; and transactions that need additional work.”
Everson also says it’s important during your one-on-one meetings to make sure to use open-ended questions, especially follow-up questions. They encourage people to talk and help you get more information about the situation. It’s equally important to get to the bottom line. The goal is to discover the facts and help them develop a plan or adjust a current plan so they can accomplish their goals. Next, make sure you confirm a commitment of actions they are to take after the meeting. Be sure they have the specific steps and a deadline for each phase of the process. Also be sure to write down key points from the meeting. Don’t trust your memory to keep you on track. Finally, “inspect what you expect.” Touch base throughout the day to ensure they are on track.
Tracking the data of your salespeople will identify why sales have increased or deceased. Especially from those who you know have the potential to be great salespeople, and who will have an outstanding month followed by an average one. The data will allow you to pinpoint what areas they need to improve on, whether it’s setting more appointments, getting a customer to sit on a bike, etc.
Everson says the bottom line for any dealer is involvement and attitude. The more effort and attention you give to your staff, the more potential you’ll receive from them in the long run.
“As Henry Ford put it,” Everson said, “‘If you think you can, if you think you can’t, either way you’re right.’ The success to motivating your sales staff and improving your profits is all about attitude, and it starts with you, the dealer.”

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